Nestlé and Azerbaijan

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Interesting article here on the BBC website about Nestlé getting into hot water in Azerbaijan. Apparently they gave away a CD with information about countries which stated that Azerbaijan had started the war with Armenia. Not according to the Azerbaijani.

Feelings between the two countries are still brittle, as I experienced first-hand while giving training to a group in which both countries were represented a couple of years back.

I don’t envy corporations having to come up with advertising campaigns, logos and products that are culturally-sensitive. It is hard enough not to get it wrong in your own country, as some recent stories about logos that have had unintended consequences have shown in the UK.

But when other cultures are involved you can literally step into a minefield of words which mean something rude in another country, numbers that are unlucky, colours that signify different things from in your own culture. Definitely, a good rule of thumb though, wherever you are, is “Don’t mention the war!”

My favourite slogan story is probably not even true, but if not, it is so good it ought to be.

The tale goes that Electrolux launched a new machine in the USA with the slogan “The vacuum cleaner that really sucks…” – Now that, with our love of irony, could actually work quite well in the UK!

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2 Responses

  1. Martin says:

    Hi Richard, I’ve just finished the chapter about Argentina, on “when cultures collide”.
    I don’t know how many time did you spend in my country, but this was the far most accurate definition about Argentina and Argentineans I’ve ever read.
    Please, It would be great to get some feedback with you and chat a while about your trips.
    Martin from Argentina

  2. Guy Cookson says:

    Great post. What a bizarre thing to do! When I was in Mexico last month I saw an ad by Absolut vodka that showed a map with Mexico’s borders occupying much of the southern and western United States (as it was in 1800s before the Mexican-American war) with the tagline “In a Absolut World” which inspired a few smiles in Mexico, but has created a storm of controversy online amongst their more sober customers north of the border. In the age of the web local campaigns can become global in the blink of an eye and the click of a blog.
    I think one of the most notorious and truly offensive examples of this type of thing, however, was when promotional material for the Polish market showing Ford’s Dagenham workers was doctored to remove black employees. The subsequent three-hour stoppage organised by the union in protest and supported by all the workers cost an estimated £2.8m, not to mention the huge PR damage done. Thankfully they’ve come along way since then!

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